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MTN Business SA in talks to bring popular App awards to Kenya

MTN Business SA in talks to bring popular App awards to Kenya

The business division of South Africa-based multinational telco, MTN Business, which hosted its annual App of the Year Awards last night in Johannesburg, says it has already initiated talks with its Kenyan offices to launch the awards in the East African country.

MTN says the awards, which are in their sixth year, have grown significantly since the inaugural event in 2012 and this year managed to attract over 500 entries.

Speaking to ITWeb Africa at the event, General Manager of Enterprise Marketing at MTN Business SA, Mandisa Ntloko said although the telco business plans to expand the event to the rest of Africa, Kenya will be the first destination.

"Without having to pre-empt, what I'm going to say is that one of the countries that have shown interest in running these awards is Kenya. Kenya is kind of known as 'the silicon valley of Africa', so we are hoping that at some point, we are going to introduce them to Kenya, working with the Kenyan office."

She added that MTN group is now involved in an MTN start-up programme, which it will also start rolling out to Africa.

"I think for us the opportunity is really to partner with these app developers, to come up with something that is either meaningful for our enterprise clients, or even our consumers as well...we're also looking at applications that can become part of our ecosystem, whether it's from a gaming perspective in our digital space or applications that are in the enterprise space for IoT or cloud."

Ntloko said finalists from the competition will get an opportunity to become part of MTN Group's start-up programme. "What that means is that besides the seed funding that they will get to help them commercialise their apps, they will have access to our 232, 6 million subscribers in the 23 countries that we operate."

Standard Bank's Shyft

Standard Bank's Shyft was crowned this year's overall App of the year  and walked away with the R200 000 prize. The app is a global digital wallet for Android and iOS, which hopes to make Forex transactions simple on a smartphone. Shyft can be used to buy, spend or send funds in USD, EUR, GBP and AUD.

Arno von Helden, Executive Head of Forex Solutions at Standard Bank said the app will soon expand to the rest of the continent. "Right now, the product is based in South Africa, but Standard Bank exists in 20 countries across Africa and we've got big plans for the product around the continent."

"We believe that it's not just a foreign exchanger; it's an app that allows people to move money very simply and very efficiently between themselves and as a bank we want to be able to provide that kind of capability to all of our clients across all of our geographies where we exist," he added.

Von Helden couldn't mention a timeline but said the company is already working on the roll-out plans, "we've started working on it and we're going to do it country by country and really soon, we will be launching the app in another African country."

He said the company still needs to think of what it will do with the money. "We will possibly look at giving others an opportunity like the opportunity we have received."

Rising start-up competition

The event also revealed an array of innovative start-up tech solutions, identified through several award categories including Best Gaming Solution (Won by Pick n' Pay's Super Animals 2), Best South African App (Won by Hey Jude), Best health Solution (Won by WatIF Health Portal), as well as others.

Von Helden said with so many start-ups emerging and initiative being shown, competing with big corporates such as Standard Bank, the opportunity lies in the power of digital. "What the innovation does is it levels the playing field and forces big corporates like us to be better and to do more."

Ntloko added that there is a big push to recognise apps that are uniquely African, saying, "Some of the apps are mirroring other apps that are already available throughout the world."

Earlier this year, African tech start-ups that secured funding were reported to have increased by 16.8% in 2016 compared to the previous year, according to Disrupt Africa's Tech Start-ups Funding Report released earlier this year.

The report noted that African tech start-ups raised funding in excess of US$129 million in 2016, expected to grow in the coming years.

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